A letter from Nuhad Tomeh in Lebanon
Dear Sisters and Brothers.
Once upon a time there were four Candles talking to each other,
The first one said, "No one needs me, so why stay lit?" and went off.
The second said, "I am Faith and no one wants to accompany me" and went off.
The third said, "I am Love and no one cares" and went off.
The fourth said, "I can light all the other three because I am Hope and I am forever."
In my last newsletter, in April, I wrote a short message titled "Restoring the Hope," referring to the story of Jesus appearing to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-25).
Today the need for the message of Hope for Christians and others in the Middle East, and especially in Syria, is even more important and needed than ever.
Since last April the violence and fighting in Syria has spread all over the country, and the two big cities, Damascus and Aleppo, which were safe in April, are so no more.
Syria has always been a puzzle to the household of God ever since the Almighty named its capital Damascus "the city of my joy“ (Jer. 49:25). This is not true any more. There is no joy in Syria or Damascus.
People are being killed. Sectarian and political fighting has led to several massacres. Children, women and elderly were not exempted.
The worry, anxiety and displacement of people have increased through the last four months: car bombs, suicide bombings, homes destroyed, churches, schools and other institutions damaged, if not directly hit, just because they are in crossfire. The Presbyterian Church of Syria and Lebanon (known as the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon) has had its share.
The Synod, as I mentioned in my April letter, appealed to its partners for relief assistance for the displaced families. It implemented a program of assistance to over 150 families that had to leave their homes and seek safer places in Syria, and it started allocating assistance to families that came to Lebanon in order to assist them in these difficult times. And will continue to do so, this coming year (we pray and hope not more).
The PC(USA) through the stated clerk of the General Assembly, Rev Gradye Parsons, and the executive director of the General Assembly Mission Council, Linda Valentine, last June issued "A call to prayer and action for the people of Syria. “ Also at the recent General Assembly a resolution was passed, which I believe showed solidarity and support of the people of Syria.
Other ways of solidarity and support of individual congregations are praying and making gifts to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) or directly to the Synod (see the links below). Also I have to mention here the personal visits to partners that were made. An example of this is the team visit of PDA to Lebanon last May.
The people of Syria, my sisters and brothers, enjoyed freedom of worship better than many other Arab countries. Bible Society bookstores in Syria were distributing Bibles beyond what was then called the Iron Curtain, in countries that it was impossible for Westerners to go to.
Let us pray that Christians will not lose these privileges. The Syrian people, especially the Christians, are facing a real danger of losing the religious freedom they have enjoyed, under the deceptive slogans of democracy and human rights. At times like this Christians in Syria are wondering, Where is the will of God in all this? And they are reminded of what the prophet Isaiah said: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord (Isaiah 55:8).
When a church leader was asked what people and churches can do for the Syrian people, he answered: “The churches in Syria call upon the churches around the world to pray for God’s will—not the will of world powers—to be done for the Syrian people, and for a strong witness in these turbulent times.“
Mark Peifer of University Presbyterian Church, Chapel Hill, N.C., shared with me the following when writing about what is happening in the Middle East:
“I guess we all have to keep working for the kingdom—
"In a"That's the translation that makes sense to me—I cannot see that all things are good, but God is at work through us in the face of the challenges the world places in our way.”
So, sisters and brothers in the Living Lord, I call upon you to pray for the will of God to take place in Syria for its people.